diamond geezer

 Monday, October 18, 2004

Marking the meridian: Waltham Forest

Three cheers for the London Borough of Waltham Forest, whose marking of the meridian is nothing short of superb. You can't see the meridian in Stratford but, once you cross the border into Leyton, it's everywhere. Back in the year 2000 the council decided to mark the millennium across their borough in a most original way. They ordered some menial operative to paint a big blue and yellow circle on the pavement of streets in Waltham Forest that crossed the meridian. And there are tons of them. As a result it's possible to walk all the way up the zero degree line to Walthamstow without the need for a map. So I gave it a try.

xxiv-xxx) I found my first meridian circle (pictured left) outside a house in Crownfield Road. I got my first funny look too as soon as I started taking photographs of the pavement. The next street north was Drapers Road and yes, another pavement, another circle, but then I spent five minutes wandering up and down Stewart Road looking in vain for a circle that turned out not to be there. Better luck in Downsell Road, except that the pavement had been re-tarmacked after the meridian householder had erected a new front wall so only a quarter of the original circle remained. Up and down these residential streets I went, locating a total of seven blue and yellow circles within one 500 metre corridor and no doubt alerting a number of Neighbourhood Watch schemes in the process.

xxxi) After Langthorne Road the meridian entered St Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery, the final resting place of Jack the Ripper's last victim. It passed through some nuns' graves (may the Sisters of Wanstead rest in peace), clipped the corner of the chapel and headed north through a sea of ornate marble monuments. A crowd of mourners had gathered beneath a tree for a burial dead on the meridian, so I beat a hasty retreat. On across the Central Line (just east of Leyton station), the new A12 relief road and the lounge bar of the Northcote Arms.

xxxii-xliv) More rows of houses followed, and more circles. I saw a woman having a screaming row sitting in the front seat of her car on the meridian, and a boy sitting on a front garden wall combing his afro on the meridian. On through Norlington Boys' School (cutting through cycle locker number 8 and the technology annexe) and precisely through the side entrance of Barclay Infant School. On through the top left corner of Whipps Cross hospital (where David Beckham was born) and through a parade of shops on the Lea Bridge Road (more accurately through the Roti Roti Restaurant, specialising in 'grilled and Karachi dishes'). All in all I saw more than 20 blue and yellow circles on the meridian before I got bored and went home.

xlv) ...but not before I'd visited the one pre-millennial meridian marker in Walthamstow. This grooved concrete slab (pictured above right) lies on the eastern side of Wood Street, just south of Wood Street station (one of those rare slap-bang-on-the-meridian stations). It was odd place to find such a marker, set into the pavement outside an obscure lock-up beside the 14th Walthamstow Scout Group HQ, but no more odd than my meridian pilgrimage had been I guess.

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